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FREEPORT — In an effort to create a possible plan for the town’s future, the Freeport Economic Development Corp. is working with residents, business owners and town councilors to identify what will make Freeport “a vital place to live, work and play” in the next decade.
The document they create will be the Vision 2025 plan.
After FEDC collects suggestions from the public, it will submit a request for proposals to consulting firms to help develop the plan.
Residents, town officials and business owners created a similar document, Vision 2010, in 2000, to provide economic development guidance within the village district.
The Vision 2025 plan will address ways to expand and enhance the outdoor lifestyle brand; support and retain businesses; create connections to the water; develop of a local transportation system with regional connections, and enhance Freeport’s business-friendly image.
Sande Updegraph, executive director of FEDC, said the Vision 2025 document may take a larger view than Vision 2010 and will provide a framework for development.
Vision 2025 and the Comprehensive Plan will work together, complement each other and are both strategic plans, Updegraph said, but are different types of documents.
“The big difference between the two is that the Comprehensive Plan really takes a general view of growth in the city, while the vision plan will identify some actionable items we can complete that fit within the Comprehensive Plan,” she said. “The Comprehensive Plan is about zoning and land use policies, while the Vision is what we want Freeport to look like.”
The first FEDC meeting on the Vision 2025 process was held on Sept. 29 and was invitation-only for business owners. The second meeting was open to the public and held on Oct. 27. The next meeting will be held during an FEDC business meeting from 7:30-9:30 a.m. at the Freeport Community Library on Tuesday, Nov. 22. The board has invited the council to offer feedback and the meeting is open to the public, Updegraph said.
At the October meeting, residents filled the council chambers to voice their suggestions, comments and concerns.
Resident Andrew Arsenault said he was opposed to the process and thought it should be a Planning Board initiative.
But Kate Arno, the FEDC president and newly elected Town Councilor, said the FEDC meetings are “always open to the public” and if confidential business matters need to be discussed, the board will convene in executive session.
“FEDC is a stand-alone nonprofit organization, not a municipal entity,” Arno said Tuesday. “But, our meeting minutes are available to the public and our meetings are open to the public.”
At the meeting, she encouraged the public to offer ideas that can be included in the RFP to help develop the Vision 2025 plan.
Some residents suggested the consultant consider expanding the educational and recreational opportunities at Wolfe’s Neck Farm and create more of a connection between the town and the farm.
Others wanted to address ways to foster new local business in the downtown area.
Transportation and infrastructure, the need for a visual art center, more pedestrian and bicycle pathways, waterfront parking and access and smart growth practices were also discussed.
Jonas Werner said he would like the consultants to take into consideration the future of retail and what the trend toward online purchases mean for a community with a retail center.
In response to questions aimed at L.L. Bean regarding a hotel in the downtown or Flying Point Road area, John Oliver of L.L. Bean said such a development is “not on our planning horizon.”
Arno said out of all the suggestions offered by residents, businesses and town officials, the FEDC board with the help of a consultant will look at three to five strategic objectives.
“This Vision 2025 plan is a nonbinding document, not an ordinance, but a shared vision put to paper,” she said.
After the council offers suggestions at the FEDC meeting on Nov. 22, the board will begin reviewing the RFP. They will finalize the draft by the end of December and send it to a list of consultants by January. The proposals will be due by Feb. 15, 2012, and a consultant will be selected by the end of February.
The end product is expected to be completed by September 2012.